Well, I’m not sold, yet. That’s a little bit troubling. I haven’t had to be “sold” on an expansion so far. I loved the trailer and concept for Burning Crusade, was left with goosebumps after the WotLK trailer and was downright pissed off at Deathwing for his attack on Stormwind and, you know, breaking the world. I was invested. I didn’t need to be sold. It wasn’t a question of “will I play this expansion” but rather “what what I do in this expansion?”.

Now, I’m still debating whether or not to play.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I got the virtual ticket for BlizzCon so I spent most of Friday afternoon staring at my computer screen and tweeting like a crazed fool (until I went over my twitter limit for like, two hours!) and trying to soak in everything that I was hearing.

Right from the start, I was intrigued by the WoW Annual Pass. This could be billed monthly and would entitle you to a free copy of Diablo III and would give you some fancy WoW mount. But most interestingly to me, guaranteed access to the new WoW expansion beta.

I signed up for it when my Real Life Friend the Resto Druid reminded me that the earlier that year-long commitment starts, the earlier it’ll end. Since I was probably going to pick up D3 and since I’m definitely playing through 4.3, it’s probably worth it. Plus, hey, beta. So I signed up for it, but not because I agree with it existing, not because I have faith in the expansion, not for any of those reasons. Just because I know I’m probably playing for the next 6 months at a minimum and I may as well get something for that.

Moving on, when I saw a green-shaded World of Warcraft logo, my immediate thought was “Well, it’s gotta be The Emerald Dream!”

Wrong.

Mists of Pandaria.

Complete with playable pandaren.

I am disappointed by this. The thing is, I’m still trying to figure out why that alone has disappointed me. Maybe it’s like what some of the panelists were saying — the last couple of expansions have been very dark and this is a lot lighter and “fun”. They’re moving away from the “big bad” at the end of the expansions with this one. BC, your goal was to kill Illidan, even though Kil’jaeden showed up later. In Wrath, it was all about Arthas. Arthas was everywhere while you levelled up, while you went through dungeons. It was ALL about Arthas. In Cataclysm, it’s about revenge and getting back at Deathwing for breaking the whole damn world apart. (I personally plan to kill him for destroying Auberdine. That’s where Kurn grew up!!)

While the “big bad” thing is old and stale at this point, because it’s been going on for nearly 5 years, I’m not sure I like what’s replacing it.

Trouble is, I don’t have a lot of ideas that could replace that formula.

All right, let’s talk about the pandas.

I am not wholly opposed to Pandaren. I am not at all opposed to monks either, but we’ll get to that.

I didn’t play the RTS games. The only Pandaren I have had contact with is my little Pandaren Monk non-combat pet (and BOY, will I get to THAT later…). Thus, I have no idea where they fit into the story of WoW. I’m not a huge lore person — what matters to me is recognizing things that I’ve already seen in the game. Fighting Ragnaros again is AWESOME because I fought him before. Seeing Onyxia resurrected in Blackwing Descent was AWESOME, because it was ONYXIA and I remember how terrified I was when I first stepped into her cavern and saw the emote: “How fortuitous, usually I must leave my lair to feed!” Hell, killing Staghelm was great because I remembered him as that douchecanoe who sent me to Un’Goro an ungodly amount of times.

The draenei, well, I’m still not thrilled with them, but we had them in-game before, as the Lost Ones and such, as I understand it. And blood elves are obviously related to the trolls and the night elves, just by virtue of the ears. ;) So it was easier for me to accept those races. The Gilneans, I was aware of Gilneas and the wall, so that’s also fine (and having played the start zone, I understand how they became the Worgen) and goblins are all over the place.

But pandas?

Less enthused. And they just look so silly.

I was griping about this on twitter, before I went over my daily limit and SomeRocketeer said “What? We play a game with talking cows and dogs and cats, how are Pandas any worse? lol”

A fair question.

I guess my best response, for now, is that they just look goofy.

And one of their racials is “Bouncy”. I’m not kidding. “You take 50% less falling damage.”

Sorry, that calls forth images of pandas falling out of trees and bouncing around. Like Gummi Bears or something. My RL Friend the Resto Druid cannot WAIT to see if they actually bounce.

So, not thrilled by the Pandaren themselves, so far, but I DO really like the fact that they start out as a neutral race. As it was explained, from 1-10, they are neutral as they level up, then they pick Alliance or Horde. I think that’s awesome.

Questions: What about guilding a level 1 alt immediately? Can you do that even if they haven’t chosen a side? I’m guessing not.

I also find it interesting that it’s not a hero class like the DK — they start from level 1. What a grind, man. 90 levels. Eesh. Still, that might cut down on the number of noobs. It seems like an awful lot of DKs are still idiots. (That’s not all DKs. If you actually tank in the dungeon finder groups as a blood DK, in blood presence, in PVE tanking gear, for example, as opposed to frost in frost presence, in PVP gear, you are not an idiot.)

Okay, let’s talk about levels. Another 5-level expansion. Blech. I hope they learned their lessons about the mistakes they made with this 5-level expansion, some of which I gripe about in this old post.

They did say that there are no more level-cap regular dungeons. You’ll have dungeons in which you level up, then you’ll have heroics at level 90 and then you’ll move on into challenge dungeons, if you like, which is something I’ll talk about in another post, I’m sure.

There’s other stuff to discuss to do with PVE (challenge dungeons, scenarios), PVP (a new arena, a new style or two of BGs, perhaps), but I want to get a couple of the major class changes.

But a major change for hunters — minimum range is now GONE.

However, because of that, melee weapons for hunters are now also GONE. I think it was Ghostcrawler who said “we’ve gone from ‘everything is a hunter weapon’ to ‘nothing is a hunter weapon’.”

Similarly, ranged weapons for everyone else are GONE, as are relics.

Wands will become a new main-hand possibility for casters, statted the same way daggers, swords or maces would be.

Rogues and warriors will use their melee weapons for their ranged abilities (Fan of Knives, Heroic Throw, etc, I would imagine).

Druids become the first class to have a fourth spec. Feral will be kitty DPS, balance will remain moonkin, resto will remain the healing tree, but you’ll now have the Guardian spec, which will be a tanking spec.

You will no longer have to learn spells at the trainer, you’ll be able to do so wherever you are when you ding.

Looking over all of that, and I’m sure that there’s more, I’m realizing two things:

1) I’m not at all excited for the expansion.

2) They’re basically making things so you can’t be dumb.

Forget about my excitement for a bit (because I know you care oh-so-much) and let’s look at my claim.

One of the devs, although I’m not sure who it was, said that if you didn’t take Raging Blow, I think it was, as a fury warrior, you weren’t being daring or experimental, you were just being a bad fury warrior.

Blizzard’s solution to that? Make sure that if they’re fury and max level, they have all the key abilities they want you to use, such as Raging Blow.

All max-level holy paladins are, for example, going to have Divine Plea, Beacon of Light, Holy Light, Divine Light and more.

On the one hand, good. I’m glad that I won’t have to see another dumb paladin out there who doesn’t have, I don’t know, Beacon of Light, Light of Dawn and Divine Favor, for instance.

On the other hand, bad. A spec is one way to tell a good/knowledgeable player from a bad/uninformed/lazy player. Who does their research? The one with the good spec. Who just drops points in? The lazy/etc player. Granted, with Cataclysm, the requirement of placing 31 points in your talent tree made it hard to screw it up, but hey, people still did screw things up on a regular basis.

While I am glad that players will have all their “required” abilities, I’m not glad that Blizzard is like “here, you’re too dumb to pick the right specs and pick up the right talents. JUST TAKE THEM AUTOMATICALLY!” I would much prefer that they spend time educating us about these abilities/talents/etc rather than just handing them to us.

The learning curve in WoW has always been a bit steep. There’s nothing in-game apart from “Miss!” that lets us know that hit might be important. Competant, good players could get to a raid and not be hit-capped for a boss and just flat-out not understand why they’re missing. The stat sheet with its “chance to miss” thing is a nice touch, but how does anyone know that a boss level mob is level 88? Sure, us older-school players know that a boss is, mathematically, 3 levels above us, but we didn’t just know that all of a sudden. We had to learn, either from other players or from various websites.

The same goes for expertise — who innnately knows that expertise should be at 26 for each weapon? Who innately knows that expertise is for melee only? It certainly sounds like something you should have a lot of, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t want more expertise, when you don’t know what it does?

I’m not asking Blizzard to say “okay, expertise is something melee classes and perhaps tanks should take a look at”, but I’m saying that the reason that some people seem so … what’s the kind way of putting this … completely brainless about things is that the in-game resources for such things don’t exist. What they further don’t seem to understand is that by removing the choices (as with the talents), they are removing the player’s ability to learn and understand why, for example, Raging Blow is required for decent fury warrior DPS.

This, in my not-remotely-humble opinion, is going to lead to dumber players.

A few weeks ago, I was being healed on my baby paladin (who was tanking) through Heroic Shadowfang Keep. By a druid who was wearing a lot of cloth. A lot of PVP cloth. Just the other day, I healed a “tank” who was a frost-specced DK who was dual-wielding 1Hs and was in frost presence the whole time, during Headless Horseman. One heal and things turned to look at ME.

The cloth-wearing druid claimed he “didn’t need the 5% bonus intellect” wearing all leather would get him and that resilience was good for PVE because he would get hit a lot by mobs.

The “DK tank”, and I use that term loosely, was either a complete moron or just a stupid DPS who decided to “tank” things (seriously, not even blood presence, dude? Really?) because it afforded him a faster queue.

This is what’s wrong with the game. This is what the new “talent” system is going to lead more of. If people are too dumb to know what talents to take, TEACH THEM WHY those talents are important. Don’t just wave the little white flag and give up and give them all the talents you feel are required because some people aren’t capable of doing a little bit of research to see what spec might be better.

I understand wanting to break up cookie-cutter specs, so they’ve gone and made the “talents”, such as they are, be much less of a thing. Talents are now optional things that you should be able to do any encounter without having. Sure, some will make things easier, but it seems as though regardless of what talents you pick, you should be able to finish out PVE encounters. Blizzard has removed our choices that they felt were meaningless because people were choosing wrong (and that meant that there was a Right Choice and anything else was a Wrong Choice) and have replaced them with 6 choices (one every 15 levels — geez, I remember getting a talent point every level once I hit 10!) to make from 18 abilities that are completely meaningless. Who cares if I pick Clemency (5m CD but on use will remove the cooldowns on your HoFreedom, HoSac and BOP) versus Acts of Sacrifice (passively reduces mana cost and CD of those spells by 20%)? Either way, it means more use of those abilities, but the idea is that encounters can be done without either of those talents by virtue of picking up Veneration, in the same tier as Clemency and Acts of Sacrifice, and Veneration means that when you drop your Consecration, anyone standing in it is immune to movement-impairing effects for six seconds.

So that means that whether I pick Veneration, Acts of Sacrifice or Clemency, my choice ultimately doesn’t matter, because there’s not supposed to be a “Right Choice”.

How does that make for more compelling options? I think what’s “compelling” is that every paladin can get Ardent Defender and Repentence, or that all rogues could get Shadowstep or Prep or that even prot warriors can get Bladestorm, while DPS warriors can get Shockwave. I don’t find that stuff compelling. A bit nifty, perhaps, but not compelling, not all that interesting.

Similarly, being able to train anywhere we like might be a “quality of life” thing, but I can’t believe it is. I think it’s to encourage people to effing train and take their abilities. One of the devs said that they didn’t like seeing someone who hadn’t trained in 20 levels because they couldn’t be bothered to go back to a trainer.

Whenever I dinged back in Vanilla, BC, Wrath, Cata, I ALWAYS went back to train. ALWAYS. I might have finished my dungeon or quest first, but I ALWAYS went to the trainer and trained. It was fun, it was exciting and I was smart enough to know I was improving my character by doing so.

Now, trainers are literally just going to be for respecs and people won’t have an excuse to not train. First, they get rid of ranks of abilities (after the failure that was so prevalent in Wrath of the Lich King, I can’t really blame them), then they made it really obvious that we got new abilities when we dinged (with the displays upon ding, etc) and now they’ll basically allow you to train things as you ding. If that’s the case, why not just automatically give the abilities to us as soon as we ding? Why bother have us learn skills when we can just gain them automatically? I’m not wanting to go in that direction, but it seems that, sooner rather than later, we’re going to be able to start a new toon at 80 or so and will gain all required abilities as we ding and will have three choices in terms of “talents”.

Overall, I’m not sold yet. I’m looking forward to the beta to see more of what this whole expansion is going to be about. But I am not yet excited, and I really, really want to be. I wish I were. But I’m not. Regardless, holy paladins can keep coming here for info and I’ll be providing everything I can until 5.0 drops, at the very least. It’s just beyond then where there’s some uncertainty.

Having said that, Anafielle said on Twitter during the initial announcements:

And hey, you guys are allowed to like it and disagree, that is interesting. But quit telling me I am not allowed to be unhappy!

This. 1,000,000 x this. Don’t tell me to stop my whining or complaining or thinking out loud. I’m a paying customer, same as you, and I have responsibilities to people in the game that will keep me playing through until Mists of Pandaria comes out at the very least. What they are doing is changing some very core portions of the game and I don’t really agree with them and you know what? I’m allowed to speak my mind, particularly here. We can agree to disagree, you can tell me why you think pandas are cool if you like, but please don’t tell me to quit my QQing and just quit the game if I’m so unhappy. I’ll be respectful of those who are excited, but you have to be respectful of us who are unsure or who aren’t excited. Disrespectful comments will not get approved and if they’re by someone who’s already got an approved comment, they will be deleted and the person will have their freedom to comment here removed. Remember the comment policy.

(As a sidenote, if you went to BlizzCon, you can submit a 3-5m audio file about your time at BlizzCon for Episode 39 of Blessing of Frost! Make sure it’s in by 12am ET on Tuesday morning (technically Monday night/Tuesday morning) to ensure we get it in time. Details are here!)

(Sidenote to sidenote: Head over to stopcast.net and vote for me, Kurn, in the LOUDEST VOICE ON TWITTER category! And you can definitely follow me on Twitter: @kurnmogh.)